The dispute over a batch of unopened ballots cast in the race for a northeast Iowa House seat could stretch for months, as one lawmaker suggests the case could be appealed all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Democrat Kayla Koether of Decorah lost to Republican Representative Michael Bergen of Dorchester by nine votes. She’s asking the House to count the 29 absentee ballots that were not postmarked, but were mailed before the deadline. Representative Brian Meyer, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the rights of those voters will be violated if their ballots aren’t counted.
“It makes a difference to the people in that district and maybe they didn’t want Mr. Bergen as their representative,” Meyer told reporters this afternoon. “…Why don’t we just count every ballot that’s legitimately at the auditor’s office on time?…Those ballots were in the stream of the mail system on time.”
Meyer is one of two Democrats on the five-member “special committee” that met for the first time late this afternoon to discuss the case. The committee’s chairman is Representative Steven Holt of Denison, one of three Republicans on the panel.
“The citizens of Iowa expect elections to be fair and lawful,” Holt said during the committee meeting. “…Our fellow citizens expect this issue to be decided fairly according to the law and without regard to party affiliation. That is exactly what this committee will endeavor to do.”
Bergan was sworn into office at the statehouse this morning. Koether was there to watch.
“Seeing folks there and hearing that oath be said aloud just gave me a lot of faith and confidence in our system of government and how it works,” she said.
Koether plans to be at the statehouse Wednesday, too, as the committee reviewing her request meets again.
“When you run a campaign you expect to have your gas tank on zero November 7th and I certainly did,” she said, “but waking up to realize that we were in this unique situation and that we had a responsibility to really help voters have their voices be heard, we sort of just had to get up the next day and get back to work.”
Once the “special committee” makes its recommendation on this case, the full House will debate the matter.